Turkish president accuses U.S. of ‘clearly’ supporting Kurdish forces

On Monday, after the U.S. State Department published a statement decrying the killing of 13 Turkish civilians, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the department of “clearly” supporting Kurdish militants, according to The Hill.

“The United States deplores the death of Turkish citizens in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,” the State Department said in the statement, saying that “[w]e stand with our NATO Ally Turkey.” However, the department noted that “[i]f reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK,” a Kurdish militant group labeled as a terrorist organization by Turkey, “are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”

As The Hill pointed out, Reuters reported Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, was summoned to the Turkish capital of Ankara while Erdoğan went after the State Department’s comments in an impassioned speech.

“Now there is a statement made by the United States. It’s a joke. Were you not supposed to stand against the PKK, the YPG? You clearly support them and stand behind them,” Erdoğan said in a speech delivered in the city of Rize, according to Reuters.

Following the deaths of the 13 Turkish civilians, Turkey detained over 700 individuals, including members of a pro-Kurdish political party, the country’s Interior Ministry said Monday, according to Reuters.

In December, toward the end of his term in office, then-President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey over the country buying a Russian missile defense system, after the Trump administration faced criticism for delaying sanctions on Turkey for months, as The Hill noted.

Relations between the U.S. and Turkey have become strained in recent years, as the two NATO allies’ interests in the Middle East have clashed more and more, especially in Syria and Iraq, where the U.S. has backed Kurdish groups.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.